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Birth of the Pandavas and the Kauravas
The 9th episode of Mahabharata we see that Pandu accidentally kills a sage named Kindama while hunting. As a penance, Pandu renounced the kingdom and became an ascetic. While he was living as an ascetic five sons were born to his wives Kunti and Madri. Meanwhile hundred sons were born to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari.
References in Mahabharata Wiki
Research and Analysis
Niyogas mentioned in the Pandu-Kunti dialog
The concept of Niyoga is a hard pill to swallow to the modern society, especially the modern Indian society. However the ancients considered it equivalent to what we do today like the birth of babies through artificial insemination, or by obtaining sperms from a sperm-bank in cases where a man becomes incapable of begetting children upon his wife. We also have surrogacy and generation of babies in artificial means like growing the embryo in test-tubes in cases where a woman becomes incapable of holding the pregnancy. Apart from this we should also consider that kings were under constant pressure to generate sons as the next heir to the kingdom. Sometimes two branches of a clan competed for the next heir to bring forth the first son. Sometimes king is dead before producing a heir. There were also large scale violences like we saw in article on episode6 where we discussed about Brahmana-Kshatriya conflicts. All these resulted into a social condition that needed Niyoga as a solution. Probably many used it as a positive solution for their problems like Pandu, Satyavati and Dasaratha and many others misused it like in the case of the daughter of Saradandayana mentioned in Pandu-Kunti conversations.
History of the daughter of Saradandayana
This lady's husband asked her to beget offspring from some accomplished men. When her monthly season arrived she bathed duly and went out in the night! She waited on a spot where four roads met. She did not wait long when a Brahmana came there. She solicited him for offspring. After pouring libations of clarified butter on the fire in the performance of the sacrifice known by the name of Punsavana she brought forth three sons that were mighty car-warriors and of whom Durjaya was the eldest, begotten upon her by that Brahmana. Here the mention of a sacrifice known by the name of Punsavana was an attempt by some redactors of Mahabharata to cover up the act of the daughter of Saradandayana. It was barely a Niyoga!
Why is Pandu telling this to Kunti? Did he know that Kunti had a son (Karna) before he married her and doubted Kunti's character? Was Pandu testing Kunti's character by telling this story?
History of Vyushitaswa and his wife Bhadra
An incorporeal voice addressed the widowed Bhadra in these words, Rise up, O Bhadra, and leave this place. O thou of sweet smiles, I grant thee this boon. I will beget offspring upon thee. Lie thou down with me on thy own bed, after the catamenial bath, on the night of the eighth or the fourteenth day of the moon' Thus addressed by the incorporeal voice, the chaste Bhadra did, as she was directed, for obtaining offspring. And, O bull of the Bharatas, the corpse of her husband begat upon her seven children viz, three Salwas and four Madras. This incorporeal voice seems to be another man who beget children upon Bhadra, and not the corpse of her dead husband.
Vyushitaswa is mentioned as a great king in the race of Puru who conquered many territories. His wife was Bhadra the son of Kakshivat. Vyushitaswa died due to excessive sex with his wife and due to an attack of phthisis, the same disease that took the life of Kuru king Vichitravirya the father-figure of Pandu. After the death of her husband, Bhadra gave birth to seven children viz, three Salwas and four Madras. The myth-makers tries to make it a case of the corpse of Vyushitaswa, begetting children upon wife Bhadra. This too was an attempt to cover up Niyoga. Bhadra was probably impregnated seven times through Niyoga, a practice by which Bhadra's father Kakshivat himself was born. In another chapter of Mahabharata we see that Kakshivat himself was born in a Niyoga, by Angira-Gautama-Dirghatamas upon a Sudra women, who was mistaken as Sudeshna the wife of king Vali. This was narrated by Bhishma to Satyvati when they discussed about the possibility of Niyoga by which sons could be born to the widows of Vichitravirya. (See the article on episode6).
Significance of Bhadra's sons and Ausinari's sons
In this narration we find that through Niyoga, eleven sons were born to Ausinari and among them Kakshivat was the eldest. Similarly upon Sudeshna the wife of Vali was born through Niyoga the kings of the five kingdoms, viz. Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Suhma and Pundra. Thus the five kingdoms in the east viz. Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Suhma and Pundra now falling in Bihar (Anga), West_Bengal (Vanga), Orissa (Kalinga) and Bangladesh (Suhma and Pundra) are strangely connected with the four Madra kingdoms and three Salwa kingdoms in the west now falling in Pakistan-province of Punjab (the three Madra kingdoms) and western parts of Rajastan (the three Salwa kingdoms) Among the three Salwa kingdoms, the northern one neighbored the Pandava territory of the Kuru kingdom and the southern one was close to Dwaraka (in Gujarat).
The name of the Sudra women who beget Kakshivat is mentioned elsewhere as Ausinari, implying that she was the daughter of king Usinara. This also imply that king Usinara too was a Sudra or beyond the four orders of Varna. Vali too probably was not inducted into the four-order system of Varna. All of these kings in the east and west was thus sometimes termed as Asuras and sometimes as Mlechchas. King Vali is often mentioned as an Asura. Thus these kingdoms in the west and east were beyond the orthodox Vedic religion based on the four order social system. Niyoga of Angira-Gautama-Dirghatamas was probably the way these territories came under the power of the four-order system of orthodox Vedic system.
The marriage of Bhadra the daughter of Kakshivat (Asura or Sudra or Mlechcha) with Puru was another example of inter-mixing of the Vedic Purus with the Asura clans. Yet another such case was Yayati's marriage with Asura king Vrishaparvan's daughter Sarmistha and with Asura priest Sukra's daughter Devayani. Asuras too possessed a priest class and a ruler class.
Freedom of women in ancient periods
Pandu mentioned to Kunti the nature of ancient society when men and women enjoyed great freedom in the choice of their mate. This social situation continued in the territory of the northen Kurus (Tibet, regions north of Kashmir) where men and women continue to enjoy the same freedom even during the life of Pandu. However in the rest of the world, restrictions were imposed on the freedom of men and women.
I shall now tell thee about the practices of old indicated by illustrious Rishis, fully acquainted with every rule of morality. Women formerly were not immured within houses and dependent on husbands and other relatives. They used to go about freely, enjoying themselves as best as they liked. They did not then adhere to their husbands faithfully, and yet they were not regarded sinful, for that was the sanctioned usage of the times. That very usage is followed to this day by birds and beasts without any exhibition of jealousy. That practice, sanctioned by precedent, is applauded by great Rishis. The practice is yet regarded with respect amongst the Northern Kurus. Indeed, that usage, so lenient to women, hath the sanction of antiquity. The present practice, however of women's being confined to one husband for life hath been established but lately.
How restrictions were imposed on women
Subsequent narration reveals that restrictions were imposed on the freedom of men and women, in order to form healthy families, where children born of the union of men and women are well protected. In healthy united families of men and women, children are well protected and they are never felt insecure. Thus the institution of marriage and family life where men and women live together raising their offspring was actually created for the benefit of children.
Uddalaka, had a son named Swetaketu. The present virtuous practice hath been established by that Swetaketu from anger. One day, in the presence of Swetaketu's father a Brahmana came and catching Swetaketu's mother by the hand, told her, Let us go' Beholding his mother seized by the hand and taken away apparently by force, the son was greatly moved by wrath. Seeing his son indignant, Uddalaka addressed him and said, Be not angry. O son! This is the practice sanctioned by antiquity. The women of all orders in this world are free, O son; men in this matter, as regards their respective orders, act as kine' The Rishi's son, Swetaketu, however, disapproved of the usage and established in the world the present practice as regards men and women. Since the establishment of the present usage, it is sinful for women not to adhere to their husbands. Women transgressing the limits assigned by the Rishi became guilty of slaying the embryo. And, men, too, violating a chaste and loving wife who hath from her maidenhood observed the vow of purity, became guilty of the same sin. The woman also who, being commanded by her husband to raise offspring, refuses to do his bidding, becometh equally sinful. Thus was the existing usage established of old by Swetaketu, the son of Uddalaka, in defiance of antiquity.
Other Niyogas mentioned by Pandu
To convince Kunti that begetting children by Niyoga is not sinful, but a rightful practice ordained for men who were incapable of begetting children by other means, Pandu tells to her about the Niyoga of Vasistha upon the wife of the Ikshwaku king resulting in the birth of king Asmaka and that of Vyasa of Vasistha's race, which resulted in Pandu's own birth.
Madayanti, the wife of Saudasa, commanded by her husband to raise offspring went unto Rishi Vasishtha. And on going in unto him, the handsome Madayanti obtained a son named Asmaka. She did this, moved by the desire of doing good to her husband. O thou of lotus-eyes, thou knowest, O timid girl, how we ourselves, for the perpetuation of the Kuru race, were begotten by Krishna-Dwaipayana.
Kunti's silence on the birth of Karna
In reaction to all the histories mentioned by Pandu, Kunti mentions her encounter with Brahmana Durvasa during her early life. Durvasa was probably one of those Rishis, fully acquainted with every rule of morality and thus believed in free life of men and women that still existed among the Northern Kurus. Kunti mentions about the boon of Durvasa, which we discussed in the article on episode7 to be nothing but the freedom to summon any one she liked to give her children. Subsequently a son (Karna) was born to her by somebody (probably by Durvasa himself or some other person). Kunti never tells this to Pandu. There is a possibility that Pandu knew this as he indirectly mentioned about the story of the daughter of Saradandayana to Kunti to test the character of Kunti. Probably Kunti too knew that Pandu had the knowledge about her premarital life. Why Kunti then chose not to mention that incident which resulted in the birth of a child? Pandu and Kunti were engaged in an open discussion without any inhibitions. There was even a remote chance that Pandu would accept Kunti's first born son as his own son. Probably Kunti chose not to mention it since it was not a case of Niyoga. It happened as the result of her folly as an immature girl. It was probably a painful experience that Kunti wanted to forget for ever. In that encounter she continuously resisted the advances of the man who tried to embrace her. Hence it happened with out her will. It happened like a violation. Also Kunti's first son was a son born to Kunti before her formal marriage with Pandu. Probably Kunti feared Pandu won't accept her first-born or if he accepted the general public won't accept it.
Probably Pandu considered Kunti's first-born son as a kin not as a heir based on the definitions that Pandu mentioned to Kunti at Mbh.1.120 like this:- The religious institutes mention six kinds of sons that are heirs and kinsmen, and six other kinds that are not heirs but kinsmen. I shall speak of them presently. O Pritha, listen to me. They are: 1)the son begotten by one's own self upon his wedded wife; 2) the son begotten upon one's wife by an accomplished person from motives of kindness; 3) the son begotten upon one's wife by a person for pecuniary consideration; 4) the son begotten upon the wife after the husband's death; 5) the maiden-born son; 6) the son born of an unchaste wife; 7) the son given; 8) the son bought for a consideration; 9) the son self-given; 10) the son received with a pregnant bride; 11) the brother's son; and 12) the son begotten upon a wife of lower caste. Pandu might have considered Kunti's first-born son as type-10 and not as type-5), thus considering Karna, the first born son of Kunti as his kin but not as his heir.
Usually type-5 (the maiden-born) sons were considered as a heir by the maiden's father and not by the maiden's future husband. For example Arjuna's son Vabhruvahana born to the maiden Chitrangada was adopted as heir by Chitrangada's father, the king of Manipura. In Kunti's case, though Pandu did not receive Kunti as a pregnant wife, her case is close to type-10.
Location where the Pandavas were born
This section is elaborated in Episode9-Part5